Jusuf Nurkic

Northwest Notes: McDaniels, McCollum, Jokic, Nuggets

Rookie Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels, the No. 28 pick out of Washington in the 2020 draft, has emerged as a potential keeper for Minnesota, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Though his counting stats are currently modest, the 6’9″ McDaniels’ defensive upside and corner three-point shooting have earned him a spot on the Timberwolves depth chart. He is averaging 19.1 MPG across 30 contests.

“Just trying to help them out as many ways as I can, rebounding as hard as I can, playing defense, just I feel like that does help a lot,” McDaniels said of his first NBA season. “You can come in fresh and nobody knows who I am and they don’t know what I can do.”

There’s more out of the Northwest:

  • There have been some minor updates on the health status of key Trail Blazers starters CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. Shooting guard McCollum continues to rehabilitate the left foot he broke in January, and has been cleared to participate in contact practices, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic (Twitter link). Center Nurkic, who underwent a right wrist surgery earlier this season, is gradually progressing in his on-court workouts, Quick noted in a separate tweet. Both players will be re-evaluated next week.
  • Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN assesses All-Star Nuggets center Nikola Jokic‘s atypical path to MVP candidacy. Youngmisuk tracks Jokic’s rise from overlooked No. 41 pick in the 2014 draft to one of the best-passing big men in the history of the NBA. Fellow MVP contender LeBron James recently praised the center’s court vision. “The guy has an unbelievable talent of seeing the floor and seeing plays happen before they happen,” James said.
  • In an extensive Nuggets mailbag, Mike Singer of the Denver Post examines a variety of trade options for Denver ahead of the March 25 deadline. The fits of Rockets vets Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker, plus Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica, are assessed.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Nurkic, Diallo, Horford, Wolves

Both CJ McCollum (foot) and Jusuf Nurkic (wrist) are due to be reassessed on March 2, and the results of those evaluations will be crucial for a Trail Blazers team looking to make a second-half push, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. The hope is that McCollum and Nurkic will be able to return shortly after the All-Star break to complement Damian Lillard, who says he thinks about his missing teammates constantly.

“Maybe y’all haven’t been doing that, but I do that all the time,” Lillard said. “I don’t think you have two players at the level those guys are and not go into a game thinking of them.

“… You always see moments where they can help the team and impact the game,” he continued. “It hasn’t been just the last two games (both losses). Even when we were winning, those weren’t running-away wins. Those were down-to-the-wire wins, so even in those games, it was like, man, it would have been good to have those guys out there.”

The Trail Blazers are also missing fourth-year big man Zach Collins, but there’s no indication that he’s close to a return after being ruled out indefinitely following December ankle surgery.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Thunder may be without wing Hamidou Diallo for the rest of the first half, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, who says Diallo has been ruled out for at least the next two games due to a right groin injury.
  • While he may prefer to be playing for a contender, big man Al Horford has embraced his role as a leader for the rebuilding Thunder since being acquired in an offseason trade, Mussatto writes in a separate story for The Oklahoman. “We have a great group of guys,” Horford said. “It’s something that has really impressed me since I’ve gotten here, just the willingness of our group to work, to focus, to try to be better. It makes it easier for me. It motivates me to be there for them and try to help them in any way that I can.”
  • Following the Timberwolves‘ swift hiring of Chris Finch as Ryan Saunders‘ full-time replacement, the National Basketball Coaches Association criticized the team for not conducting a “thorough and transparent search of candidates from a wide range of diverse backgrounds,” as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune outlines.

Jusuf Nurkic Undergoes Wrist Surgery

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a fracture in his right wrist, according to a team press release.

Nurkic will wear a splint for four weeks and be re-evaluated in six weeks. The timeline offered by the team suggests that the snakebit Portland big man will not return until March at the earliest.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Steven Shin at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.

Nurkic suffered his latest major injury during the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game against the Pacers while attempting to block a shot.

He missed nearly the entire 2019/20 season due to a major leg injury suffered late in the previous season. Nurkic is averaging 9.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 12 games (23.3 MPG) this season. He enjoyed a career year, averaged 15.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG and 3.2 APG, in 2018/19 before fracturing his left leg.

Nurkic has a partially guaranteed base salary of $12MM next season. The Trail Blazers will have to decide whether to give him a full guarantee this summer.

Enes Kanter started in his place on Monday against San Antonio with Harry Giles backing him up. The Trail Blazers have a spot open on the 15-man roster as well as a two-way slot to add another big man if they wish. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, they are $1.87MM below the luxury tax line (Twitter link).

Jusuf Nurkic To Undergo Wrist Surgery, Miss At Least Eight Weeks

After suffering a right wrist fracture on Thursday night, Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic will undergo surgery and will be sidelined for at least the next eight weeks, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The injury happened during the third quarter of Thursday’s game vs. the Pacers, apparently occurring when Nurkic swiped at the ball as Malcolm Brogdon drove to the basket. It’s the second major injury in the last two years for the 26-year-old, who missed most of last season due to a significant leg fracture.

The timeline reported by Charania would result in Nurkic missing the rest of the first half of the 2020/21 season, which ends on March 4 — the second half begins on March 11, eight weeks from yesterday. The Trail Blazers have 25 games on their schedule between now and then, so their starting center would miss over a third of the season, assuming all those games can be played without postponements.

Nurkic’s absence will also cost him a $1.25MM bonus, as we outlined earlier today. In order to earn that bonus, he needed to appear in at least 62 games, which won’t happen.

With Nurkic and fellow big man Zach Collins (ankle) on the shelf, Portland figures to lean more heavily on big men Enes Kanter and Harry Giles. The Blazers have an open spot on their 15-man roster, as well as an open two-way contract slot, so they could consider signing another center for depth purposes.

Northwest Notes: Nurkic, Jokic, Green, Rubio, Conley

A fractured right wrist may prevent Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic from earning a $1.25MM bonus this season, as Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter). Nurkic would earn that bonus if he plays in at least 62 games and Portland wins at least 44 games. Those thresholds are prorated downward from 70 and 50, respectively, to account for the 72-game season.

As we noted last night in our story on Nurkic’s injury, the Blazers do have an open spot on their 15-man roster and an open two-way contract slot, so they have options if they want to add depth up front with Nurkic and Zach Collins (ankle) both sidelined.

Portland is currently $1.87MM below the luxury tax line, according to Marks. Since two-way signings don’t count toward the tax and there’s no deadline to sign a player to a two-way deal this season, that option could appeal more to the Blazers.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic raved about new teammate JaMychal Green after Thursday’s win over Golden State, as Alex Ladibou of Nuggets.com writes. “I’ve always said JaMychal is a guy I’d like to play with for the rest of my life,” Jokic said. “He is amazing.” A source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post that Jokic expressed a similar sentiment privately to Green after the game.
  • Britt Robson of The Athletic feels the Timberwolves made a mistake by bringing Ricky Rubio back to Minnesota during the offseason, since Rubio’s style doesn’t mesh particularly well with D’Angelo Russell‘s. Minnesota has a -22.3 net rating so far this season when the two point guards share the court.
  • Mike Conley had a down year in his first season with the Jazz in 2019/20, but is now finding his comfort zone, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Conley, an unrestricted free agent in 2021, is averaging 17.3 PPG and 5.6 APG on .452/.430/.774 shooting in 11 games so far in ’20/21 after putting up just 14.4 PPG and 4.4 APG on .409/.375/.827 shooting last season.

Jusuf Nurkic Fractures Right Wrist

The Trail Blazers announced during the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game against the Pacers that Jusuf Nurkic will not return to the court, having suffered a right wrist fracture (Twitter link).

While it’s not 100% clear how the injury occurred, Nurkic appeared to come up holding his wrist after a defensive possession in which he swiped at the ball with his right hand, blocked a Myles Turner shot attempt, and then fell to the floor (video link via NBC Sports Northwest).

The Blazers haven’t offered much info yet on the severity of Nurkic’s injury, how it’ll be treated, or how much time he might miss. However, it seems safe to assume that he’ll be sidelined for the foreseeable future, whether or not he requires surgery on his wrist.

It’s an unfortunate turn of events for Portland’s 26-year-old starting center, who missed nearly the entire 2019/20 season due to a major leg injury. This season, Nurkic had been averaging 10.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 11 games (23.6 MPG) entering Thursday’s action.

With Nurkic and fellow big man Zach Collins (ankle) on the shelf, the team figures to lean more heavily on big men Enes Kanter and Harry Giles. The Blazers have an open spot on their 15-man roster, as well as an open two-way contract slot, so they could consider signing another center for depth purposes.

Northwest Notes: Conley, Bogdanovic, Horford, Blazers, Morris

Jazz point guard Mike Conley cleared all COVID-19 protocols and practiced in full on Tuesday, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Utah has one unnamed player who has yet to be cleared. Conley had close contact with a family member who tested positive, which forced him to the sidelines. He had to produce seven consecutive negative tests before he could exit quarantine.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz swingman Bojan Bogdanovic says he’ll be ready to play at the start of the season, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets. Bogdanovic, who underwent wrist surgery in May and missed the restart, has been practicing in full this week.
  • Al Horford and rookie Theo Maledon will join the Thunder once they complete coronavirus protocols, Brandon Rahbar of the Daily Thunder tweets. Horford and Maledon were officially acquired from the Sixers on Monday. “Theo, for a young player, he has a lot of experience and has a certain maturity about him,” new head coach Mark Daigneault said. “Al, we’re very fortunate that he’s here and to have a player of his caliber.”
  • Among the three members of the Trail Blazers organization to test positive for the virus was one player, coach Terry Stotts told Jason Quick of The Athletic (Twitter link). Zach Collins (ankle) and Jusuf Nurkic, who just arrived Sunday, also missed the first practice on Tuesday.
  • The Nuggets are confident backup point guard Monte Morris and EuroLeague import Facundo Campazzo will be able to play together in the second unit, Kendra Andrews of The Athletic writes. Rookie draft pick RJ Hampton will need more seasoning before he’s ready for big minutes, Andrews said. Denver and Morris, one of the team’s top reserves the past two seasons, agreed on a three-year, $27MM extension on Monday.

Northwest Notes: Dort, Malone, Nurkic, Collins

A rookie guard who was virtually unknown a few months ago may have changed the shape of the Thunder’s first-round series, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Luguentz Dort made life difficult for Rockets star James Harden whenever they were matched up in Saturday’s Game 3, setting the stage for Oklahoma City to rally for a badly needed overtime victory.

Harden scored 38 points, but shot just 7-for-21 while Dort was in the game. The rookie has shown an ability to stay in front of the league’s top scorer and force him into contested 3-pointers.

“We know Lu and what he does,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That’s what we expect every night.”

Dort’s defensive prowess leaves coach Billy Donovan with a difficult choice moving forward, notes Royce Young of ESPN. The Thunder need Dort to counteract Harden, but that means sitting out one member of the unit that normally closes games. An injury to Steven Adams dictated the decision Saturday, but Donovan may have to adjust his regular lineup for the rest of the series.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • It’s too soon to think about firing Michael Malone, but Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post believes trust between the Nuggets coach and his players is broken after two straight lopsided losses to the Jazz. Malone questioned his team’s resolve after Game 3, saying, “I think we give in too easy” and “Our group has to be a lot more mentally tough.” Denver doesn’t have a hard-nosed leader in the locker room, Kiszla adds, and its closest thing to a “glue guy” is Will Barton, who left Orlando to rehab his injured knee.
  • The strain of returning to a high-pressure environment 17 months after suffering a compound fracture in his leg is beginning to show on Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, observes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Players are usually brought along slowly after such a serious injury, but Nurkic is being asked to log heavy minutes in a playoff setting. Slater notes that an injury to Zach Collins and a lack of production from Hassan Whiteside leaves Portland with no other options.
  • Collins talks with Jason Quick of The Athletic about the frustration of having a second serious injury within 12 months. Collins, who is coming off surgery on his left shoulder, now has a hairline fracture in his left ankle that doctors discovered before Game 2. “You don’t want to be a downer in front of your team and get everybody’s mood down,” he said. “They don’t need that. But definitely, when I got back (to the hotel) and talked with my agent and my parents, it all kind of hits you. It hits you that you are going to have to go through a whole another process again.”

COVID-19 Notes: Nurkic, Testing, Roster Moves, Bamba

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic turned in one of the best games of his career Saturday, shortly after learning that his grandmother had died of COVID-19, writes Jason Owens of Yahoo Sports. Nurkic helped Portland claim the eighth seed in the West with 22 points, 21 rebounds, and six assists in a win over Memphis, but admitted he was almost too devastated to take the court.

“I didn’t want to play. She made me play,” Nurkic said afterward. “… I’m glad we won and are in the playoffs. That’s what we came for.”

Nurkic briefly considered leaving the Disney World campus after his grandmother was diagnosed in late July. He has been one of the keys to the resurgent Blazers after being sidelined for more than a year with a compound fracture in his left leg.

There’s more coronavirus-related news:

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency approval to a saliva-based test for COVID-19 that was funded by the NBA and its players union, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Developed at Yale University, the test, called SalivaDirect, is intended for public screening. It was given to some NBA players and staff members in Orlando, and the results nearly matched the nasal swab test that is now is widespread use. “(The Yale test) loses a little bit of sensitivity, but what we gain is speed and that it should be up to 10 times cheaper,” said Nathan Grubaugh, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale.
  • With the seeding games over, the NBA’s rules for roster moves have changed, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The 16 teams remaining in Orlando can only replace players who test positive for the virus, and the new player can’t have more than three years of NBA experience. Prior to Saturday, teams were still permitted to replace players who decided to opt out.
  • Mohamed Bamba and the Magic hope further medical testing will determine why he had so much physical difficulty after contracting the coronavirus, writes Iliana Limon Romero of The Orlando Sentinel. Bamba felt strong when he arrived at Disney World, but he was never able to fully get back into game shape. He left the campus Friday and is done for the season. “Mo went home and he’s going to have tests so that we can find out what the issues are for sure,” coach Steve Clifford explained. “He had been working hard and he just didn’t feel good. So he wasn’t seeing progress in his conditioning level, so this is the smart thing to do and to find out for sure to find out why he was having the problems he was having.”

Western Notes: Wiggins, Nurkic, Daniels, Davis

Warriors coach Steve Kerr sought input from Tom Thibodeau after the team acquired Andrew Wiggins back in February, Marc Berman details in a story for the New York Post.

Thibodeau, who coached Wiggins in Minnesota from 2016-19, gave Kerr advice on how to maximize Wiggins’ game and playstyle. Golden State traded for Wiggins in a deal that shipped away D’Angelo Russell, acquiring a wing they hope can succeed alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

“We had just traded for Andrew Wiggins and he was really helpful,’’ Kerr said. “I had a long conversation with [Thibodeau] about Andrew. He gave me some good advice on ways to connect with Andrew, how much he enjoyed coaching him and why. We’ve gotten to know each other over the years. [Thibodeau has] been very helpful to us.”

The Timberwolves fired Thibodeau in January of 2019 after he reportedly failed to connect with a number of his players. Wiggins didn’t appear to be one of these players, however, as Kerr explained. It’s a vital reason why Kerr was elated to hear Thibodeau’s advice, along with how he’s a proven, veteran NBA coach.

“He showed some X’s and O’s and went over some actions they ran for [Wiggins],” Kerr said. “Some of the things they were trying to do. The thing with Tom is he’s a workaholic, loves the X’s and O’s, loves breaking down film and takes great joy in it. Our staff values his opinion.’’

“What is apparent is he and Andrew had a great relationship and Andrew said that as well. I know Andrew told me he really enjoyed playing for him and appreciated his commitment. When a coach knows his stuff and gets along with his players, he’s got a great chance to succeed. I think Tom’s got a great shot.’

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • The Blazers are rallying around Jusuf Nurkic as his grandmother battles COVID-19, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. Nurkic learned the news last week and immediately urged his grandmother to visit a hospital. “I think people don’t realize that s— is real out there, man,” Nurkic said. “We’ve been fortunate to be here and in a safe environment, being tested every day, but please … take care of yourself. Wear your damn mask … if you are outside, by yourself, do what you got to do. But if you are inside … protect people.”
  • Nuggets guard Troy Daniels discussed his time with the Lakers, his path to Denver and more in an interview with Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Daniels was waived by the Lakers on March 1 and signed with the Nuggets four days later. “Early in my years, my agent used to tell me, he said it’s always good to be wanted,” Daniels said. “It’s good to feel wanted, and I want to be where I’m wanted.”
  • The Lakers could benefit from keeping Anthony Davis active by ensuring that he gets plenty of shots, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes. Davis scored just 14 points in the team’s loss against Toronto on Saturday, shooting just 2-of-7 from the field. However, he believes he made the right decisions based on how the Raptors were guarding him. “We didn’t shoot the ball extremely well tonight at all from the field or from 3, which kind of let them continue with their game plan of doubling me,” Davis said. “I think if we had made a couple of shots, then they would’ve definitely changed a little bit.”